Liverpool are now where Man United were at the start of this decade

Trading places!

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As the decade draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on an emotional rollercoaster for England’s two biggest clubs which has effectively seen them trade places with one another.

What started as a decade with Manchester United as kingpins and Liverpool as a perennial laughing stock has been flipped almost completely on its head.

While they have yet to claim that elusive Premier League title, Liverpool’s transformation has been astounding, especially considering most of the decade was spent in abject mediocrity.

They have gone from a team that regularly flitted between Champions League and Europa League places, to one of the best teams in Europe in the blink of an eye.

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The Reds began the decade in seventh place in the league and ultimately finished their campaign there in what would be Rafa Benitez’s last season in charge, before spending the subsequent three seasons fluctuating between sixth and eighth.

An unlikely title challenge under Brendan Rodgers followed, but it was only ever going to be a flash in the pan considering it was built on a defence that actively encouraged opposition teams to score goals.

Without Luis Suarez, Liverpool returned to midtable obscurity – even under the early tutelage of Jurgen Klopp.

The club’s change in fortune came about thanks to a large amount of good fortune.

Their approach to the transfer market, for the most part, has not been structured and yet Liverpool have stumbled upon a world-class team. Several managers have thrown large sums of money at the club’s problems and the vast majority of acquisitions over the last ten years have been duds.

Even a large amount of Jurgen Klopp’s signings raised eyebrows.

Sadio Mane, for instance, was regarded as a headless chicken at Southampton; as equally capable of the ridiculous as he was the sublime. Mohamed Salah, meanwhile, represented a gargantuan risk.

The Egyptian was an undeniable flop at Chelsea and could have easily become the next Andy Carroll at Anfield. Yet, both players have become integral cogs in Klopp’s machine and the signings have proved to be resounding successes.

It was only in 2018 that Liverpool really approached the transfer market with any real plan.

Addressing the glaring defensive issues in his squad, Klopp brought in Virgil Van Dijk in January and Alisson in the summer to shore up the porous holes created by Dejan Lovren et al. The signing of Fabinho to anchor the midfield also offered the Liverpool rearguard even further protection.

Jurgen Klopp Liverpool manager

Ever since, Liverpool have been close to unstoppable domestically and look set to finally end their 30-year famine without a league title.

While they have had numerous title challenges over the past 30 years, they have all been proven to be flashes in the pan. This current crop looks like it is here to stay.

To make matters worse for Manchester United fans, Liverpool are winning several games in a fashion reminiscent of the vintage Ferguson era, whereby they regularly score scrappy injury-time goals to snatch victories they scarcely deserved.

United, on the other hand, have become what Liverpool once were at their lowest ebb in the Premier League era.

Sir-Alex-Ferguson-Chewing-gum

Under Ferguson, United began the decade in their usual fashion, winning two of the first three league titles on offer. In fact, United found themselves top of the pile at Easter for seven successive seasons between 2007 and 2013 and finished as champions in five of those seasons.

But for costly draws against Blackburn and Everton in 2010 and 2012 respectively, they theoretically could have won all seven titles.

However, once Ferguson called it a day, United found themselves floundering with an average squad and struggled to ever replicate their past glories.

Four permanent managers and countless failed transfers later, United find themselves fully morphed into the Liverpool team of the late 90s. Under Solskjaer, United have developed a small club mentality and consistently up their game against the big boys all the while failing miserably against the Watfords and Crystal Palaces of the league.

They are a banana skin for the bigger fish, nothing more, nothing less.

Granted, there is a plethora of promising youth players breaking through at the club, but again, it feels eerily reminiscent of Liverpool in times gone by. United fans clutch desperately at the not too distant glories in the fool’s hope that they will come again soon.

That doesn’t look likely at the moment. United seem to be going in circles and seem to be in need of a rebuild before every transfer window, despite spending close to £1 billion since Ferguson’s departure.

Whether they can reverse their misfortunes by the end of the next decade is entirely dependent on decisions made in the upcoming transfer windows.

For now though, United fans must face up to the harsh reality of Liverpool reaching their holy grail next year and possibly knocking United back off the perch that Alex Ferguson had once elevated them to in the years to come.

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